Hypocrellin A Photosensitization Involves an Intracellular pH Decrease in 3T3 Cells


*L.P.B.C, Universite P. et M. Curie, Case 138, 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France. Fax: (33) 1 44 27 75 60; e-mail:


Abstract— The fluorescent pH probe carboxy-seminaphtorhoda-fluor-1 (C-Snarf-1) has been used for laser microspectrofluorometric assays of intracellular pH in 3T3 mouse fibroblasts treated with hypocrellin A. These results are compared to those previously obtained with the structurally related hydroxylated polycyclic quinone, hypericin (Sureau et al, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 118, 9484-9487, 1996). A mean local intracellular pH drop of 0.6 units has been observed in the presence of 1 μM hypocrellin A after 90 s of exposure to 0.1 μW of laser irradiation at 514.5 nm. The time evolution of the cytoplasm acidification for hypocrellin A-treated cells is faster than that for cells treated by hypericin. Thus, release of protons from an excited state of hypocrellin A appears to be more efficient than that from hypericin. In addition, the pH dependence of the quenching of C-Snarf-1 fluorescence in 3T3 cells under continuous irradiation has been observed. It is shown here that under continuous illumination, a pH decrease is able to induce a modification of the intracellular binding equilibrium of C-Snarf-1 that results in an increase of C-Snarf-1 fluorescence intensity. This latter observation suggests that the protons generated upon the photoexcitation of hypericin or its analogs may be involved in the production of other photoreactive species. Finally, we suggest that, just as for hypericin, this pH drop may be involved in the antiviral and antitumor activity of hypocrellin A.